May 23, 2019 / 8:36 AM / 3 months ago

Bangladesh nearly doubles rice import duty to support farmers

DHAKA, May 23 (Reuters) - Bangladesh has raised import duty on rice to 55% from 28% to support its farmers, officials said on Thursday, amid widespread protests over a drastic fall in domestic prices.

The new tax rates, that came into effect on Wednesday, would further curb rice imports, especially from neighbouring India, which emerged as the biggest supplier to the South Asian country in 2017 after floods destroyed its crop.

The move would help protect farmers’ interests as growers are being compelled to sell their rice at lower rates than the production costs, a food ministry official said.

Local rice prices have fallen to their lowest in three years due to ample supply from last year’s crop and forecasts of record output.

Bangladesh re-imposed a previous import duty of 28% in June after reducing it in two phases in 2017 to 2%, as local rice prices climbed to a record high.

Domestic stocks have since greatly improved on the back of massive imports and good crops.

Despite a hefty import duty, private traders imported more than 330,000 tonnes of rice in the July-April period, the government data showed.

Reporting by Ruma Paul; editing by Rashmi Aich

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